Only a couple of weeks before this year bids us farewell, and in synchronicity with tomorrow’s Solstice Day, I find it fitting to take a step back. Pause. Reflect. Shed some light onto this year’s developments, in a seemingly simplistic (and undercover rebellious) act, given the frantic pace of overwhelming growth experiences.
This year gave rise to a bunch of unforeseen circumstances: some pretty bad-ass conundrums to tackle, deep dark waters to Navigate. Notable amounts of Change coming our way, leaving hardly any stone unturned. No matter which corner of the world you are reading this piece from, rumor has it that this year, 2020, has gotten to you. Still, for better or worse, the year we have just crossed meant much more than the tragic headlines we used to describe it.
Don’t get me wrong: I remain at awe before the severity of the pandemic and the death-toll, witnessing how most of the people who initially underestimated its impact now stand corrected. Losing loved ones to an invisible enemy, a deadly disease we have yet to find a cure or a vaccine for, is a terrible state to be caught in. Back in March, the pandemic was more of a distant story. Come December, we all know someone who has had it, and most of us know someone who died because of it. No matter the circumstance, losing a loved one is the definition of tragedy. Losing a loved one due to a nasty virus is just heartbreaking. My heart goes to the thousands of people directly impacted by a COVID-related loss. I don’t know you. I can’t even begin to imagine your pain. And the best way I know how to ease what you may be going through, amidst looming fear and uncertainty, is to raise a loudly optimistic voice about this past year and its teachings.
Should Dear Santa decide to make a list of recent developments, this year had it all. A global pandemic. Lock-downs and furlough schemes. Remote work and distance schooling. Cancelled réveillons, and holiday presents still waiting to be sorted out to get dispatched by overwhelmed courier service providers. Even volcano eruptions! Companies going bankrupt or seeing their business operations get severely disrupted. Personnel made redundant. And, yes, this was not a drill (or a horror film). All these things actually happened, as if life as we now know got scripted by Stephen Kind and directed by Quentin Tarantino. Still, I can’t shake that inner vibe that 2020 was more than just the sum of its toughest parts. Not everything was gloomy!
The World Economic Forum, for instance, reports a series of positive developments such as:
- Disease breakthroughs in 2020 including new potential cancer treatments and falling hepatitis B cases in children under five.
- Technological advances bringing us a world-first artificial eye, and new NASA intelligence of water on the moon.
- The United Nations, World Food Programme, World Economic Forum and other agencies continue to tackle global challenges including hunger, climate change and gender equality.
But I’d love to go ahead and highlight a different aspect around the developments of 2020. A softer, more subtle side: humanity’s initial efforts in developing a global commonwealth of empathy. A shared space of inner alignment. We may be sailing in different boats, but we all experience the same storm, and we know it now. Consciously or not, slowly, yet steadily, we have come to the realization that us, humans, get to reside in similar emotional states: this remote-working Greek Mom is under the same levels of pressure and uncertainty as any other remote-working Mom from the US, the UK, China, Germany, India, Canada, or South Africa (only to name a few)!
I know this for a fact now, having had my fair share of interview connections with Parents from all corners of the world for this space’s Monthly How She Does It column. I haven’t spoken to every living-breathing Parent out there, but having met quite a few now, I can safely underline this much: the year 2020 may have distanced us physically, but it brought our minds together. We find it easier to empathize with the world. See things through other people’s perception. This extended shared understanding is, I believe, this year’s greatest achievement. And that’s not all.
While gradually expanding our armory of make-do tools and solidifying our support networks to fight-off adversity, another strong realization emerged. The concept of sustainable living, and the habits and rituals that could get us there. This was my personal epiphany from 2020. And as I critically notice others around me, I acknowledge some initial signs of global synchronicity: sustainability emerging as one of the most preeminent themes of the year.
Purposeful living. Wholesome living. A type of existence that brings together all those otherwise untouched siloed realities, into one whole person. It’s official, Momma: the Worker and the Parent personas co-exist into the same psyche. Your boss can see this now, as you stretch to juggle remote work and remote schooling. That recruiter scanning your profile knows it when they reach out too! And well-being (the laggard in organizational development interventions) has risen as the definitive factor for long-term corporate viability. We are in the outskirts of a global mindset transformation. Slowly, yet steadily, the impact goal I committed to serve during last year’s recap (pledging to help forge an uncontested link between Home and Work life) is our newly found reality, swiftly brought to life by a combination of deliberation, chance and circumstance!
2020 was the year that helped us all realize that the knowledge, skills and abilities we had cultivated through our school and work environments were simply not enough to fully support us in times of acute crisis. Core skills like reading, writing, calculus and coding are, of course, still significant. But humanity’s survival now relies on other types of competences as well. Competences that both formal and non-formal education continuously leave out of the curriculum. Competences leading to living (work and home) life gracefully. Competences (and meta-skills) such as:
- Self-Care (and why it’s not a selfish act)
- Self-Esteem (and why it begs to differ from narcissism)
- Mindfulness (or how to become aware of yourself and your surroundings)
- Mental Health (and why it’s equally important to Physical Health)
- Reframing negative thoughts as they come (to build yourself some serenity)
- Emotional Regulation (or the art of enjoying the highs and tackling the lows)
- The importance of Sleep (and why it should not be the first aspect of our daily lives to take a hit when we over-commit or lose track of our personal boundaries)
- Personal Finance Management (or how to form contingency reserves so that you don’t instantly go bankrupt when life plans go south)
These core personal competences, touching the core of personal and organizational effectiveness and resilience, are not yet taught in Schools. Most corporate curriculums have yet to make enough room in their learning budgets for them. To some extent, this is understandable, and Rogers said it best: the pace of innovative change is gradual, and has barriers. To pass all the way from drawing in innovators onto shifting those laggards, society needs time and deliberation to adjust and allow this novel message to become diffused into everyone’s daily experience. Still, if there’s one message globally received this year from our cosmos, is that we truly need such competences. And we need to secure time and resources allowing us to start working on them asap. After all, by 2025 50% of the workforce will need severe reskilling. Why not start with those skills that truly serve us for the long run?
Growth experiences like the one I had this year with the On.Purpose Studio was a much needed break from mainstream training, and at the same time a personal development revelation. For 28 days straight, I got to embark in a journey of self-discovery, where I was treated as more than the sum of my skills, roles, or beliefs. I entered the program’s “November tribe” being an over-worked over-committing Mom, and exited the program well aware of my current state and limiting beliefs, determined to further develop my personal sustainability. Self-leadership; A state of being where I go by purposefully, with the intention to grow into a stronger version of myself:
- Kinder towards myself and others
- Bolder in what truly matters to me
- Wiser and Calmer in tough situations
- Truer to my calling and uniqueness
The year 2020 marks the beginning of my own journey to purposeful living: where my inner child, my present self and my future self show up to work in alignment rather than against each other. I have embarked in this journey of self-discovery and giving back for a few years already, but I still am a work in progress. And that’s OK.
Unapologetically growth-minded. Incessantly curious. Utterly deliberate and insanely result-driven. And at the same time lacking in self-compassion and continuously beating myself up for mistakes or shortcomings. Struggling to maintain harmony between my work and personal agendas. Afraid of letting deep social connection in, and missing out on opportunities to show my true colors thinking various ways of how I might not be seen as enough. But this terribly weird year, 2020, gave me all the proof I could ever wish for about one thing: I am enough. And I’m showing up for life as it comes. As a Professional and as a Mother, as a Wife and as a Friend, as a Daughter and as a Partner, I realize that I need energy to make things happen, and awareness to make things matter.
So here’s to yet another New Year ahead. Here’s to even more showing up. Here’s to integrating older habits with newer ones to further develop critical meta-skills such as resilience and self-sustainability. To never lose faith in learning, unlearning and relearning. To realize that there’s no better present than to be present. Here’s to setting ourselves up for success, by taking part in unique growth experiences that help us embrace our unique ourselves. Unapologetically. With Grit, and Gratitude.
So long and thanks for all the fish, 2020. We got this!